ENVR E-104 Confronting Climate Change
This course considers the challenge of climate change and what to do about it. Students are introduced to the basic science of climate change, including the radiation budget of the Earth, the carbon cycle, and the physics and chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere. We look at reconstructions of climate change through Earth history to provide a context for thinking about present and future changes. We take a critical look at climate models used to predict climate change in the future and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, evaluating which forecasts of climate change impacts are robust, and which are more speculative. We spend particular time discussing sea level rise and extreme weather (including hurricanes, heat waves, and floods). We look at the complex interactions between climate and human society, including climate impacts on agriculture and the relationship between climate change, migration, and conflict. We also discuss strategies for adapting to climate change impacts and the implications of those strategies for sub-national and international equity. The second half of the course considers what to do about climate change. First, we review the recent history of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as various national and international efforts to limit them in the future. We discuss reducing carbon emissions using forestry, agriculture, and land use, and then focus on how to transform the world's energy system to eliminate CO2 emissions. We conclude by examining different strategies for accelerating changes in our energy systems to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The course emphasizes the scientific and technological aspects of climate change (including the clean energy transition), but in the context of current issues in public policy, business, design, and public health.